Saturday, August 09, 2008

grown-ups vs. children: the children behave better

This year I finally managed to get into a class at the renowned Sharon Arts Building in Golden Gate Park (I've been hearing about this place for years, have often kept well-thumbed class schedules about, but have never before pulled off the onerous registration procedure, involving showing up in person and waiting for hours outdoors in the early morning. I accomplished it this time around by sending the Sober Husband and Iris Uber Alles, who took lawn chairs, blankets, and an iPod loaded with Simpsons episodes for their vigil). The children and I are taking the "Family Clay Day" class together, which is for children from 5 to 11 and their parents. Children under 8, such as Lucy, must be accompanied by a grown-up, who must be enrolled in the class.

It turns out that a lot of the children in the class are dropped off and picked up by parents, who have chosen not to participate. Of the few adults who are participating, two are not particularly into doing any sculptures themselves. "I have no imagination," one complained over and over again. The other is mainly interested in chatting and in getting her daughter to press handprints into clay, which the mother can glaze. There are just two grown-ups who are more interested in sculpting than their child proteges are: the Drunken Housewife and a grandmother with a marked dowager's hump and two rather browbeaten grandchildren.

Our first class was the very morning after we'd returned from the East Coast. We were all tired and cranky, and Lucy got frustrated with the stiff artist's clay and burst into tears. I found this aggravating, as although I was sleep-deprived, I was completely obsessed with finishing a sculpture of a fish. The soft-spoken and warm teacher took Lucy away to show her some work and give her ideas, allowing me to obsess about my fish, but brought her back quickly when Lucy spouted an epic nosebleed. I ministered to Lucy, who was spouting both blood and tears in vast quantity, while everyone hovered about unnerved. Eventually Lucy stopped excreting fluids and made a little clay cat, two smiling clay snakes, and a tiny smiley face. Iris made a tip jar (she has taken to panhandling about the house) and a little mushroom.

The children were ready to go by the end of class, but I parted with my fish reluctantly.

Later I felt ashamed of my selfish behavior. I should have been more focused on Lucy; I should have been helping her more, rather than insisting on making something myself. I resolved to be more Lucy-centric next time.

Today we went back to Family Clay Day, and we ended up sitting with the grandmother and her two charges. The grandmother is a passionate amateur sculptor and brought her own box of tools and brushes, which she allowed her grandchildren to use. Our pieces had been fired and brought out, and we spent the entire class glazing them. I held my fish, still warm from the kiln, in my hands reverently. Lucy was happy to be reunited with her cat, which she chose to glaze purple. Iris painted exuberant polka dots on her tip jar. "You know, Iris, you're going to have to provide excellent service if you want good tips," I observed.

Iris paused. "I guess I won't get big tips."

I started the class with good intentions, helping Lucy get set up, pick the colors of her choice, and watching her glaze. Then I got completely sucked into glazing my own fish carefully with several coats, pondering color choices and agonizing over getting it right. I regretted not having gone down to order bifocals, because they would have helped me with the finer detailing. I did help Lucy whenever she needed more paint or more praise, but I was absorbed in my fish. So much for my good intentions. The children finished their projects well before the end of class and were pulling at me, "Come on!" while I was still glazing my little fish.

I think I'm going to give up my idea of being less focused on sculpting my own pieces, because I already have my next project in mind: I want to make a little green parrot standing on its own two legs. At least the children like that idea. "Be sure to make a parrot," said Lucy naggingly. "Don't forget next time to make a parrot."

My shame was mitigated by the fact that I wasn't the worst adult there. At least I praised my children for their creativity and tried to encourage them to do their pieces how they wanted to. The sculpting grandmother screamed in the middle of the class, "THAT'S A GOOD WAY TO RUIN BRUSHES!" at one of her grandchildren. She also repeatedly tried to tell her two grandchildren how to paint their pieces. "I have some brown for that door. I think you should do that part gray. Aren't you going to paint some daisies on that?" At one point, with real disgust, she said, "You just ANNIHILATED that" to one of the children. "That was cute before, but you just ANNIHILATED it the way you painted it," she ranted, shaking her head and stomping away.


Silliyak said...

I think taking time for yourself and your creative side will only help you be a better mom/person. Me time is very important.

hughman said...

taking time for you and berating your offspring is a win-win. duh.

knittergran said...

Oooh, bad grandma....

hughman said...

where are you??

Silliyak said...

Yes dear, we have certain..."needs" and we're jonesing out here.